So I met an (almost) pro American football player.
He told me about a secret about trying out to get on a team.
The trainers have all the hopeful players show up at a beach…and they run their football maneuvers in deep sand.
Literally run. For hours.
The trainers and key decision makers wait. They watch for injury, short strides, favoring a leg, even players rubbing their joints or muscles. Any sign of strain from running on sand.
Because running on sand will strain the body’s connective structures to the max. Connective tissues include tendons, ligaments, muscles and fascia.
But it doesn’t hurt the joints.
If a hopeful football player shows signs of discomfort while playing on sand, he is typically not called back. Because the trainers know that player has physical issues and won’t hold up for pro ball.
What about horses?
Veterinarians typically want to watch a horse move on hard flat surfaces. Why?
We’ve been taught that hard, flat surfaces make lameness show more obviously. And we need to see the lameness the best we can to try and diagnose the problem.
Hard and flat surfaces primarily “test” (that is, put strain on) the joints.
Deep sand surfaces primarily “test” the connective tissues.
I think most vets believe, “by the time we’re called out, the owner has already tried rest. And rest would heal the connective tissues” So most vets are looking for joint problems.
I’m sharing this with you because you hold the keys to getting correct answers for your horse.
If your horse is lame, or even a bit off, use the above information to help narrow things down.
I realize you may not have a beach. However, you can likely find soft ground of some type. And also hard ground.
Keep in mind that some arenas look soft, but are really hard underneath a one-inch fluffy surface. You can check it by running on it yourself.
If you land hard on the surface and it feels “jolting or jarring” to your body, then it’s a hard surface.
If it’s not jarring, but instead is difficult to push off of (“sucks you in” would be an extreme), then that is a soft surface.
Using a neutral surface is best for riding, but won’t be that helpful for diagnosis.
It’s also good to ride or watch your horse go on a hard/soft surface from time to time. Even if they’re not lame, it can be interesting to see how their movement changes.
When you know what your horse’s normal looks like, you can be super helpful to your vet when there’s a problem.